Sulfonated metallo phthalocyanines (M-SPC) are extensively studied as sensitizers for photodynamic therapy of cancer. They strongly absorb clinically useful red light with absorption maxima between 670-680 nm. Their photodynamic properties depend on the nature of the central metal ion as well as the degree of substitution on the macrocycle. The zinc, aluminum and gallium complexes are efficient photo-generators of singlet oxygen, the species most likely responsible for their phototoxicity and tumoricidal action. Tissue distribution pattern, cell penetration and dye aggregation are strongly affected by the degree of sulfonation of the dyes. Mono- and disulfonated M-SPC have the highest tendency to form photo-inactive aggregates. However, these lower sulfonated dyes more readily cross cell membranes resulting, in vitro, in enhanced phototoxicity. In vivo, the highly sulfonated hydrophilic M-SPC show the best tumor localization properties but the lower sulfonated dyes still exhibit the best photo-activity. Variations in activities between the differently sulfonated M-SPC are far less pronounced in vivo as compared to in vitro conditions. Such discrepancies are explained by the combined action of numerous vectors including interaction of M-SPC with plasma proteins, vascular versus cellular photo-damage, tumor retention, cell penetration as well as the degree of aggregation of the dye.